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  • Discipline(s): Psychology
  • Available: Fall Semester 2022 Spring Semester 2023 Summer Session I
  • Course Type: Standard Courses
  • Taught in: English
  • Course Fee: $5.00
  • Credits: 3
  • Course Travel: No

PSYC 290: Intercultural Communication

Note:  This course was formerly COIN 290.

Course Description

In today’s world in which people are increasingly on the move for many reasons (tourism, forced and deliberate transnational migration, displacement, study and work abroad programs, missionary and humanitarian work, etc.), an intercultural competence is of paramount importance and no longer limited to highly specialized professions. And an intercultural competence necessarily includes interpersonal communication competencies and skills relevant for an intercultural dimension because nothing happens without communication. According to Ingrid Piller (Intercultural Communication. A critical Introduction, 2nd edition, p. IX. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017; course book), “The main challenges of intercultural communication are the linguistic challenges of language learning, the discursive challenges of stereotyping, and the social challenges of inclusion and justice”.

In this course, students will tackle these challenges by acquiring not only theoretical knowledge and contemporary concepts of intercultural communication; they also will be able to develop specific interpersonal communication skills in general and in an intercultural dimension in particular. The theoretical knowledge together with concrete communication skills will ultimately change their attitude in the relationship with others, laying the basis for becoming Intercultural Mediators through “a dedicated interpersonal engagement to reinvent a new common culture that is mutually beneficial” (Piller, 204).

To reach this aim, each course session will be divided into two parts:

  1. short presentations by the professor of theoretical knowledge following the course book (Piller)
  2. practical communication exercises and workshop activities supported by additional reading as well as analytical tools.

The analytical tools, among others, originate from research results obtained in the framework of European Union-funded projects revolving around intercultural communication challenges for people on the move, written and coordinated by the professor over the past 20 years.

Culture and intercultural communication are considered dynamic and transformative concepts: no intercultural communication advice or recipes are proposed, but tools are presented to refine one’s observation skills and communicative attitude. For this purpose, observation sessions inside and outside the classroom will be organized and students will learn to analyze communicative products (film extracts, advertisement pictures and videos, propaganda pictures and videos, newspapers, social media posts) according to the four communication resources: words, voice, body, and visual elements. Through observation and analyses they will learn to discover underlying meanings of verbal, paraverbal, non-verbal and visual messages. Furthermore, students will actively be involved in discovering and improving their communication skills, such as active listening, arguing, conflict resolving; they will discover hidden stereotypes and prejudices and many more communication practices.

The course content and activities are not necessarily tailored to students of linguistics, sociolinguistics, or communication; no prerequisites are necessary. They rather provide students with tools and skills applicable both in everyday situations and professional contexts.

Course Objectives
By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • distinguish between different levels and different planes of communication (Quiz)
  • distinguish between spoken texts and written texts (Quiz)
  • distinguish between interpersonal communication generally and interpersonal communication in an intercultural perspective (Quiz, Intercultural Portfolio, Poster & Poster Presentation)
  • activate productive interpersonal communication techniques, procedures and strategies in an intercultural dimension (Attendance: active participation during workshop activities)
  • observe an interaction (Intercultural Portfolio)
  • transcribe a talk-in-interaction (Intercultural Portfolio)
  • analyze a talk-in-interaction (Intercultural Portfolio)
  • identify different communication practices, techniques, procedures, and strategies in an intercultural encounter (Intercultural Portfolio)
  • analyze different kinds of communicative products for overt and hidden discriminatory messages on the grounds of real or perceived national belonging, ethnic-cultural belonging, social belonging, gender & sexual orientation, disability, and age (Attendance: active participation during workshop activities, Quiz, Intercultural Portfolio, Poster & Poster Presentation)
  • use a correct academic vocabulary regarding the field of intercultural communication studies, anthropology, and sociolinguistics (Quiz, Portfolio, Poster & Poster Presentation)
  • design a poster connecting their personal experience in Italy with contemporary theories in intercultural communication, anthropology, and sociolinguistics (Poster & Poster Presentation)
  • face some of the different challenges of intercultural communication (Poster & Poster Presentation)

Course Materials
A course reader, including all the indicated readings, will be available. The course’s Moodle site is the primary location for readings and assignments.

Course Fee
$ 5.00 – includes materials for final exhibition